What is a pallet fork in a watch?

Vaer Watches Updated by Vaer Watches

A pallet fork is a component of the escapement in a mechanical watch that is responsible for releasing the energy stored in the watch's mainspring and regulating the movement of the watch's gears and hands.

The pallet fork works in conjunction with the escape wheel and the balance wheel to control the release of energy from the mainspring in small, precise increments.

The pallet fork consists of a thin, U-shaped piece of metal with two small prongs, called pallets, at the end. The pallet fork is mounted on a pivot or staff and sits above the escape wheel. As the balance wheel oscillates back and forth, it causes the pallet fork to move back and forth as well, alternately engaging with and releasing the teeth of the escape wheel.

When the pallet fork engages with a tooth on the escape wheel, it locks the wheel in place and stores a small amount of energy from the mainspring. As the balance wheel continues to oscillate, the pallet fork releases the tooth and the energy stored in the mainspring is transferred to the balance wheel, which moves the gears of the watch forward in small increments.

The rate at which the pallet fork releases energy is controlled by the hairspring, which acts as a type of torsion spring that resists the motion of the balance wheel and helps regulate the rate of oscillation. Small adjustments to the length or tension of the hairspring can have a significant impact on the accuracy of the watch's timekeeping.

Overall, the pallet fork is a critical component of the escapement in a mechanical watch, and it must be manufactured to extremely high standards of precision and accuracy to ensure that it functions properly and reliably over time.

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